There hasn’t been a lot of innovation in the world of public trash bins in the past few decades. With a few exceptions, the trash bin is still, as Kaveh Mamari says, little more than "a box with a hole."
But Mamari’s company, Renew, may change that. Renew recently installed 25 high-tech sidewalk pods in London’s financial district. The hope is that they’ll not only reduce litter and increase recycling, but also provide important public safety benefits.
Each of Renew’s bins has slots for paper recycling, but that’s just the beginning. They have two large LCD screens and are Wi-Fi enabled. That means they can display a wide range of real-time information, like public transportation schedules and updates, the number of bikes available at nearby bikeshare stations, headlines and financial news, and of course, ads.
The Renew bins are also incredibly strong. They underwent testing in the New Mexico desert to make sure they could withstand bomb blasts. That’s important in a city where trash cans have been used to hide bombs in the past. And in the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or other major public safety threat, the LCD screens can be used as a sort of emergency broadcast system. If phone networks go down, as they did after the 7/7 bombings, these pods could provide up-to-date information to the public. There are also hints that the units may eventually communicate directly with mobile devices or serve as Wi-Fi hotspots themselves.
London has already signed a 21-year contract with Renew and plans to install a total of 100 of these bins in the city before the 2012 Olympics.
The total cost for development, manufacturing, and installation? A staggering $47,000 per bin—and that doesn’t include maintenance. That’s a lot of money to spend on recycling receptacles, but perhaps it’s a fair price for a robust public information network and citywide Wi-Fi.